ORLANDO, Fla. – The national championship trophies haven’t even been paraded through Gainesville yet, but it’s not too early to start talking about who’ll be the preseason No. 1 in college football come fall.
Tim Tebow is the answer to that question. If he returns to Florida, the Gators will be No. 1 again in August. Even if Florida loses the likes of Percy Harvin or Brandon Spikes to the NFL draft, Tebow’s presence will cause voters to swoon.
If he bolts, No. 1 is likely to be determined by other high-profile quarterbacks.
Decisions by Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Texas’ Colt McCoy (who already has said he is staying) and USC’s Mark Sanchez will shape the national championship chase.
If they all come back to school instead of heading to the pros, the August Top 10 is going to look a lot like today’s.
Here is a quick look at teams that will be in many preseason top 10s.
Florida – The hunch here is that Tebow returns unless he is guaranteed by a team that he’s going in the first round. He’s simply having too much fun being Tim Tebow Superstar to become just another clipboard holder fighting for a job. The likes of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps give him weapons, and the defense will be absolutely stacked.
Oklahoma – The Sooners’ defense proved its worth by slowing down the Gators. It’ll be experienced and one of the best in the Big 12. The offense has major turnover, so Bradford is key. OU can reload if he stays. If he goes to the NFL, this team won’t be the Big 12 favorite but will still have enough talent to challenge for a BCS bowl.
USC – USC’s defense didn’t get nearly enough praise for being one of the best in recent years. There is major restocking to do on that side of the ball. The offense should be awesome if Sanchez is back. If he departs, USC will slide in another hotshot recruit but may have to worry more about the annual upset.
Texas – Putting Texas in your top 10 is a lock under Mack Brown, who has had eight consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins. McCoy’s senior season will feature a loaded receiving corps and veteran offensive line.
Oklahoma State – The Cowboys look like this year’s version of Texas Tech. The trio of QB Zac Robinson, WR Dez Bryant and RB Kendall Hunter will put up video-game numbers again. Defensive improvement could elevate them to the top of the Big 12.
Mississippi – By now you should have figured out that Ole Miss’ win at Florida wasn’t a fluke. The Rebels had their chances to beat Alabama, crushed Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl and have big-time recruiting momentum going under Houston Nutt.
Virginia Tech – The Hokies won the Orange Bowl in a down year and return nearly everyone on both sides of the ball. If QB Tyrod Taylor progresses on schedule, Frank Beamer’s squad will be the leader in a much-improved ACC.
Alabama – The Tide have to find a quarterback to replace John Parker Wilson and will have to fill some holes on the line of scrimmage. But Nick Saban is a recruiting machine. Young talent is abundant.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.